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A record in southern California in thermal fuel fires threatens electricity supply



An epic southern California heat wave on Sunday with numerous high temperature records ever, including a 121-degree reading in Woodland Hills, which marked a historic milestone for Los Angeles County.

The frying temperatures put the power grid under extreme pressure. Malfunctions leave thousands without power and officials warn of power outages that could affect millions of customers.

It also started a number of fast moving brush fires in the area, including one in the Angeles National Forest near Duarte that broke out on Sunday afternoon, forcing Labor Day weekend visitors to flee.

Another major fire near Yucaipa had burned more than 3,000 acres in some communities, forcing evacuations. In the south of San Diego County, the valley fire had burned 5,300 acres and destroyed at least 1

0 buildings in the rural hinterland.

The Woodland Hills value of 121 degrees broke the old record of 119 degrees set in July 2006 and was one of several records dropped on Sunday. Escondido reached an all-time high of 115 degrees, breaking a record set in 1909. Paso Robles also reached an all-time high with 117, as did Idyllwild (104) and Chino (121).

Woodland Hills is one of the hottest parts of Los Angeles and often experiences extreme temperatures. But the conditions on Sunday – measured at a station at Pierce College – marked the highest temperature at an official NWS station not only from LA County, but also from Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The NWS said Riverside hit its highest temperature in September at 117 degrees. Santa Ana hit a record high for the day at 106.

Officials have warned people to avoid outdoor activities, even if temperatures cool slightly on Monday.

A woman in her late 40s was walking a trail in Calabasas in the Santa Monica Mountains when she felt sick and collapsed at 2 p.m. on Saturday, said Juanita Navarro, assistant sheriff of LA County.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. The official cause of death is still unknown, Navarro said.

In response to the dangerous heat wave, all roads in the Santa Monica Mountains are closed until Labor Day, Malibu Search and Rescue said in a tweet.

In the Angeles National Forest, the Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team conducted an air rescue on a semi-conscious hiker with heat exhaustion on the popular Strawberry Peak Trail, where temperatures often rise on the route, which has little shade in the afternoon.

Power outages could occur during the peak evening hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the California independent system operator, who runs the power grid for much of the state.

This could force utilities to cut power to 2.5-3 million customers across the state, Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations at California ISO, said at a news conference on Sunday.

The ISO urged consumers to save energy, especially during the peak load time from 3pm to 6pm

“I think it’s fair to say that without really significant upkeep and help from customers, we’re going to have to have some rolling failures today,” Schmitt said. “This is really an appeal to people to help us get through a very, very difficult day.”

Should there be a power outage, Southern California will notify the affected customer as soon as possible by phone, text message and email, sadly Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for Edison from Southern California.

“We know that people work from home and the kids are studying online so we understand how disruptive these failures can be,” he said. “At the direction of CAISO we will try to ensure that they are as short as possible and have the least impact on a customer group.”

The outages typically last an hour and affect a neighborhood, not an entire community, Kumar said.

As of Sunday afternoon, the majority of the 18,000+ reported outages were in Edison, Southern California’s Los Angeles County, where more than 10,000 customers were without power. The largest outages are 1,203 in Inglewood and 1,126 in Paramount as of 2.30pm on Sunday.

The outages were heat and not fire related, Kumar said, but overall the power distribution system was going well.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy had enough power supplies and did not anticipate the need to implement rolling power outages, a DWP spokesman said.

The utility company had some minor power outages in West Adams, Reseda, Sun Valley, and Pacoima, among others. By Sunday morning, about 7,000 customers were without power, and crews had been working around the clock to restore power to 37,000 after temperatures and energy demands rose, according to the utility.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. warned that the Diablo wind event, due to run Monday evening through Wednesday noon, may require public safety shutdowns for approximately 103,000 customers in the Sierra Foothills, North Bay and East Bay. PG&E provides power in Northern and Central California.

The hot weather has hampered fire fighting and heat-induced rescue efforts across the state.

In the Sierra National Forest northeast of Fresno, the 45,500-acre Creek Fire trapped more than 200 hikers in the Mammoth Pool Recreation Area when it crossed the San Joaquin River on Saturday afternoon, sparking massive rescue efforts by the California National Guard.

In Los Angeles County, the fast-moving Bobcat Fire quickly grew to 1,000 acres when it began on Sunday afternoon near the popular West Fork Picnic Area, a normally peaceful wooded area where many residents fish and swim in the cool San Gabriel River .


Times associate Rong-Gong Lin II of San Francisco contributed to this report.

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